Does culture beat talent (in the 90th minute)?

Those who know me well would know that I am an unusually enthusiastic football fan for having come from a country that calls it “soccer.”

So, last week, I was at Paris’ Stade de France, joining my fiancée, stepson, and future father-in-law in the raucous Iceland section as the country’s fierce underdogs slew the Austrians with a 90th minute goal.

What does this have to do with business communication?

In the working world, one is often reminded of the Peter Drucker quote: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Looking at Iceland’s performances, and also at last season’s ascendancy of unheralded Leicester City to the championship of the English Premier League, I am left with a slightly different question: “Does culture beat talent in the 90th minute?”

The business world continues its years-long “war for talent.”  But Iceland’s ability to deliver earth-shaking results with unheralded players raises some interesting questions about whether talent is prized (and priced) excessively relative to other potential performance drivers:

  • What is the value of team continuity and connectivity? – a hallmark of Iceland’s performances involved frequent, precise passing enabled by familiarity with each player’s pace and positioning patterns
  • What about team spirit?: does a lack of superstars and close connections with the fan (“customer”) base produce more engaged and less selfish performances?
  • Does manager autonomy enable better performance?: With fewer than 100 registered professional players in the 330,000-population country, Iceland Manager Lars Lagerbeck faces very little grief from the media about tactics or player selection.  Outgoing England Manager Roy Hodgson faced continual pressure from the media and the fan base for tactical changes following weak performances, and continuous agitation for the inclusion of rising stars and the deletion of older or less consistent players.
  • How do they do that “Viking” War Chant?  Watch here.

To be fair, there are some levelling factors in international football that need to be taken into account:  each team can only have 11 players on the field and countries can only field their own nationals.  But if teams like Iceland and Leicester can win with smaller talent pools and few if any superstars, how can enterprises connect and mobilize their current staffs in ways that can better help them win?


The State of the Sector: are internal communicators missing something big?

Not long ago, London-based internal communication consultancy Gatehouse published its eighth annual “State of the Sector” survey looking at how internal comms practitioners are experiencing their roles and how they use their time, money and energy.

Having spent the last four years in an in-house comms role, none of the conclusions particularly surprised me. Practitioners these days are focused on “digital,” channel management and event management, in pursuit of informing people about corporate strategy and, to a lesser extent, supporting the ongoing push for “employee engagement,” whatever that might exactly be.

They are worried about their budget levels and dabbling with a range of measurement tools in order to have some facts that can justify sustaining at least part of those budgets. But what the Gatehouse survey does not touch is any effort to sharpen the impact of internal communication by identifying and focusing on high-value and high-impact individuals and audiences within their organizations.

Whether this is a simple omission in the Gatehouse methodology or a major gap in current practice is a question I will leave open for now. But when at 28% of survey respondents anticipate taking a budget hit this year, the question of whether one can drive more impact with fewer dollars, euros or pounds is one that ought to be on most communicators’ radar screens.

Now, to answer that question, a few other questions are worth asking:

  • Does the 80-20 rule have an equivalent in internal communication?

According to Innovisor, a Copenhagen-based niche consultancy specializing in identifying and mapping the relationships between formal and informal leaders in organizations, the internal comms equivalent actually reflects a 3%-90% rule, where three percent of a company’s population has the ability to drive and influence conversations reaching 90% of employees.

These three percent are not merely senior leaders at the top of the pyramid, but the internal experts, role models and social networkers who combine high connectivity with high credibility to move and validate messages, official and otherwise.

  • Isn’t it more difficult or expensive to find the right people than to just focus on everyone?

The process of identifying an organization’s most influential employees and, if desired, mapping out their connections and their spheres of influence, is a task that requires actual work, either through a survey where employees identify their key personal and professional contacts in the workplace, or, less precisely, through a combination of interviews, desk research and management input.

Once found, the list of influencers and their maps of connections and influence have to be updated in a manner reflecting the level of change, turnover and organizational momentum. But even factoring the degree of work involved in developing definitive lists and maps, the opportunity for saving money, reducing noise and increasing impact is immense.

  • Isn’t this a function of management and not internal communication?

A sharpened focus on high impact employees and audiences isn’t the same thing as a focus on high-status employees. Top-down communication may remain the gold standard for delivering authoritative pronouncements, but employees look to select peers and experts to define, sanity check and contextualize those messages. This is an approach that combines management with management in a powerful, integrated way.

  • Has anyone actually done this successfully?

Selective engagement, which focuses on identifying, connecting and mobilizing key individuals, whether through Innovisor’s approach to social mapping, or Leandro Herrero’s Viral Change approach, is an increasingly popular and efficient way of making things happen in organizations and communities.

In doing such an excellent job of identifying what internal comms leaders and practitioners are doing and focusing on, Gatehouse does a massive service to the IC community.

And in highlighting such a gap in the arena of audience focus, Gatehouse, perhaps inadvertently, has created an opportunity for internal comms pros – and those who employ us – to look at how they can engage more selectively, and in so doing, increase their impact while making better use of money and organizational bandwidth.


#CreateConnection: IABC wins with high touch over high tech

I have been an IABC member since 2001. And, for much of the last 15 years, I have been both a member and a critic.

I am a critic no longer. #CreateConnection is the reason why.

A number of years ago, IABC was in a bit of turmoil. As an internal communicator, I naturally found the turmoil interesting and used my membership as an entrance ticket to participate in it. Much of the turmoil was around personality issues at play at the time, but a thread of it was around IABC’s alternatives for future growth.

A few of us supported a virtual and digital approach, seeing IABC’s traditional focus on face to face events and local chapters to be too high-maintenance and difficult to sustain. But IABC instead doubled down on high-touch over high-tech, and embarked on an approach (hashtagged #createconnection) that emphasized the strengthening of its core offering with secondary emphasis on the virtual and digital side.

I was skeptical. But following my recent flight of blog postings and all of the sharing and retweeting I’ve seen in the last few weeks, I came to realize that IABC has nailed it with #createconnection.

There may be 100,000 or more business communications pros in the world. Most of us are already connected digitally on Twitter and LinkedIn and other online forums. Indeed, there are more than twice as many members of IABC’s LinkedIn group as there are members of IABC. But in large part, the people who’ve actually been connecting with me have been IABC members around the world—sharing, retweeting and asking questions.

More remarkable was that most of these members are not people I’ve met at conferences or other events. Even with a seemingly analog strategy focusing on local face-to-face activity, IABC members are rapidly connecting globally into a potent digital force. As for those I have met, the involvement has been particularly strong—ranging from challenging but respectful input from Jim Shaffer, one of IABC’s (and the world’s) most respected authorities on business communication, and an article encouraging members of IABC Montreal to read one of my recent blog posts.

Indeed, even if you can’t commit to attending IABC’s many excellent global and regional events, the global community that is IABC is increasingly relevant and accessible, wherever you are. If you want to learn from your peers, or if you have some thoughts about the future of our profession and want to move them forward, there has never been a better time to join IABC.

It’s time to #createconnection. It’s time for IABC.


Unpacking the Pravda Principle, looking beyond “engagement”

Last week, I published my first internal communications blog post in quite a while, The Pravda Principle.

It was a kind of shoot-from-the-hip exercise, based on an idea that had been rolling around my head for years—the paradox of why Pravda, long mocked and despised by Westerners as the epitome of propaganda and falsehood was, in essence, a highly successful internal communication channel and one from which today’s practitioners can learn.

Part of my reason for invoking Pravda as a positive example is that I see internal comms as being a stuck discipline, focused excessively on the nebulous goal of “increasing employee engagement (however it may be defined),” and seeing “the answer” in the adoption of increasingly visual and technically intricate channels.

But is the production of infotainment to drive employee happiness numbers really the only viable or legitimate use of a set of skills, thinking and tactics which are capable of driving other, more tangible organizational objectives? Or are we off track?

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is it all about attractiveness?

The pressure on communicators today is to produce stuff that is attractive and digestible to the least committed stakeholder. But Pravda wasn’t attractive, visual or digital.  It’s appeal was that it was authoritative: it reliably provided useful information.  Is there space left for internal comms vehicles that are authoritative in style and tone, helping stakeholders who need real information to get and understand the information they need? Are “all employees” really equally important?

  • Are “all employees” really equally important?

In large organizations, there may be certain things, particularly like brand promises, that have to be internalized by all employees.  But the extent to which individual employees can influence the definition of strategy and the leverage each has to impact its success varies profoundly. Given the relatively limited sums corporations spend on internal comms, shouldn’t its priorities lean towards helping smaller numbers of higher-value employees have more quantifiable impact, rather than try to move engagement survey numbers?

  • Isn’t sender-focused communication useful sometimes?

In today’s internal comms, there’s an assumption that the only purpose of publishing content is to entertain or “engage” large numbers of readers and that the needs of the “sender” must be secondary.  But if one can get three massive stakeholders to agree a cohesive story about how they will align their objectives and how they intend to work together, and publish it to the organization; the value of reduced friction, ambiguity and delay could more than justify a communicator’s salary even if no one outside the stakeholder teams reads the story.

While there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with the idea of “engaged,” happy employees, I sense that the pursuit of “engagement über alles” has dominated the field to such an extent that other approaches and objectives are seen as secondary – or in some cases, even as not being worth offering to otherwise deserving stakeholders.

Recognizing and championing alternative approaches and objectives could profoundly change the terms.



The Pravda Principle

The Pravda Principle: is clarifying and formalizing the “official truth” the true purpose of Internal Communication?

Back in the old days in Russia, in many cities and neighborhoods, at metro stops and bus stops, there used to be glass cases housing copies of the current issue of Pravda.

Pravda, which meant “truth” in Russian, was often mocked in the West by those who claimed that its name belied a lack of actual factual content. Yet, Pravda remained the country’s biggest newspaper, avidly read by purchasers and those souls who gathered around those glass cases.

Because for those readers, Pravda was the truth—the daily, official version of the truth, to be specific. Encyclopedia Britannica described Pravda’s mission as “seeking to encourage unity of thought on the part of its readers by stressing and interpreting the party line.” Or, more to the point, the official version of the truth.

While a whole industry has emerged to push a role for internal communicators as corporate cheerleaders, employee-wellbeing advocates and large-scale event planners in recent years, the role of working with stakeholders to analyze ambiguous issues, helping resolve them by framing coherent stories and defensible rationales, and integrating these stories into the “official truth” is the most valuable role we play, in my view.

Of course, this turns the current thinking about internal comms on its head. It focuses on the role of the content itself rather than the needs of the reader, especially when it emphasizes bits of the official truth which have high impact on relatively small groups of people. But why shouldn’t helping small groups of people align common approaches to high-value problems be as important as stimulating high readership among large numbers of employees with low decision-making authority or influence?

Large organizations are often chaotic, with lots of agendas, leaders, priorities and initiatives, relatively few with a mass audience of their own. But when internal communicators have the license to work with stakeholders and create stories that address and clarify ambiguities, we have the ability to continually create and reinforce that corporate story, and in so doing, accelerate the resolution of business problems.

Ironically internal communicators and internal communication channels are often mocked for being “Pravda-like.”

But these taunts criticize internal comms for excessive cheerleading and misplaced positivity rather than for taking on the serious business of helping stakeholders define the “official truth” and clarifying where employees stand and what they need to do.

In my view, our role should be much more Pravda-like. By focusing on clarifying “official truth,” we help leaders and employees know where they stand and what is expected of them, and provide a clear starting point for further conversation. If that isn’t the proper focus of internal communication, what is?



Wonderloop: The Future of Intranets in 20 Seconds or Less?

Having been involved with the birth and launch of a social intranet for the last two years (and other stillborn efforts beforehand) an enduring disappointment has been the inability to convince people to register and complete even a brief biographical profile that would allow other users to learn more about those people than simply “name, rank, and serial number.”

But an app I learned of at the recent EACD European Communication Summit struck me as a potential game-changer.  It’s called Wonderloop, and is based on a radically different view of the optimal profile—a video clip of 20 seconds and a collection of tags, which allow users to be identified, searched and connected with people with common interests, or who seek expertise.

While some profiles, including the ones on my company’s intranet, take minutes to complete and require at least semi-competent English writing ability to avoid lasting embarrassment, Wonderloop’s system makes it easy to re-use existing tags, minimizing the impact of bad terminology and bad spelling, while allowing a user to establish a presence quickly and cleanly. Built-in messaging complements a tag-based search engine.

One clear downside is the variable quality of the video selfie, though one’s video clip is easy to replace and update.

To be sure, Wonderloop faces challenges.  Currently, it is only available as an iPhone app, rendering it incompatible with nearly all existing intranet platforms, and with everyone who doesn’t kneel at the Apple altar.  It is a true start-up, whose Norwegian founder, Hanna Aaase, has had to encounter one of the most formidable barriers to initiative and perseverance imaginable, the infamous Scandinavian phenomenon called the Janteloven, reflected in the rejection of a government grant application on the grounds that the Wonderloop idea “was too ambitious.”

Wonderloop is not excessively ambitious in and of itself—a simple combination of short videos, tags, messaging and other allied features like favoriting and introduction.  But adding 20 second videos could make a people search or a search for subject experts far more interesting, and make today’s intranets more ambitious, and far more engaging.

If you do kneel at the altar of Apple, and have an iPhone, you can try out Wonderloop by downloading it at the iPhone App Store and registering your account details inside the app. Upon approval, you can then move about the site. 



Do-Know-Feel: Relevance Trumps Awareness

Having built my communication career mainly on the learnings I have obtained on the job, first as a political consultant and then as an internal communicator,  I have largely been spared a lot of the models and paradigms delivered through formal communication training. 

So, about 11 years ago,  while I was managing the internal communication for an airline merger,  I was a bit taken aback when my client, having recently completed some internal comms ninja-training course, cited a long-standing model and wanted me to apply it in my work.

“It’s about ‘know, feel, do’, Mike,” she said.  “What people should know, how they should feel, and then, what they should do.”

For some reason, that never sat well with me.  It still doesn’t, and when I heard someone say “it’s not ‘know, feel, do,’ but ‘do, know, feel,'”* it made perfect sense to me.

(* I apologize for forgetting the individual who shared this insight–please feel free to claim credit if you are reading this)

Do-know-feel is actually the basis for selective engagement and the kind of internal communication based on social analysis–where messaging and message volumes are channelled on the basis of driving relevance, action and performance rather than increasing awareness and approval for the sake of awareness and approval.


The first step is to determine what the various individuals in the audience or organization actually need to do: what tasks they need to accomplish, what roles they need to fulfill.  

Such roles can range from:


Change Leader

Project Manager

Someone whose day job will incorporate related activities

Someone who will not be directly involved but will need to accommodate related activities

Someone who will be affected by a change but will otherwise not participate in its implementation

Total bystander


The next step:  assess the factual content required to allow these individuals to fulfill their roles.

Having already assessed the “do” for each individual, it becomes much easier to ensure that the right people get the right level of detailed information, and that people who are less involved don’t get inundated with information that they are likely to find excessive, irrelevant and, often, irritating.  

While that may sound obvious,  such an approach often faces opposition from senior managers who insist that everyone must know everything about their “top priority” initiative because it is their  top priority, even when it clearly is not each employee’s top priority.  

While I once successfully challenged a CEO when he demanded a specified frequency of articles on his top project when the content relevance and ripeness did not warrant it, documenting that communication approach is based on relevance rather than awareness makes such a challenge easier to deliver.


Aside from the general inability of internal communicators to successfully and sustainably dictate employee emotions,  another reason for making emotion the third level of the do-know-feel approach is that the desired emotional response is different for people with different tasks.

It may be sufficient for a total bystander to get a robust sense of the context and rationale for change,  but people who are more directly involved with specfic responsibilities and impacts will face a broader range of triggers for their emotional reactions.  

For instance,  where there are personnel changes, the senior managers deciding the scope of the changes, the managers and HR staff implementing the changes, the employees whose roles would disappear and those whose roles would face reconfiguration will all have different emotional needs and require highly distinct messaging and support. 


Some may look at do-know-feel and just see an alternative approach to audience segmentation.  But I would argue that there is more to it.  Do-know-feel is also a clear basis for driving more selective, efficient and effective approaches to internal communication, employee engagement, and change communication, based on relevance rather than driving awareness.  It not only offers a means for driving communication focus on those who can have the most impact, but also on reducing the sense of overload and over-prioritization felt by employees who actually have better things to do.  By doing so, do-know-feel changes the terms.


Time for a “War” on “Employee Engagement”

In one of Leandro Herrero’s Daily Messages he sends to his readers and fans, he said in reference to the “War on Talent” that “If it is time for a war, let it be a war on Employee Engagement.”

Indeed. It is about time.

And let this be both a war of words, and a war on words.

Employee Engagement has dozens of definitions.

Many of them directly conflict with each other.

Some spark unreasonable expectations of benefit in the minds of stakeholders. Many create undue burdens on the employees, leaders, managers and consultants who are expected to deliver to them within vague or overly restrictive parameters.

And when anyone attempts to drive Employee Engagement while operating to inconsistent definitions, it’s hard to calculate positive odds for success.

Indeed, there are so many definitions of Employee Engagement that there are multiple categories of them. These include:


Shared meaning that is valuable to the future of the organization:

* More cohesive community / internal cooperation

* Increased feedback

* More employee attentiveness to customer concerns or other issues

* Improved design of work plans through co-creation

* Improved retention


* A more participative approach to negotiations, processes or innovation


* Improved employee morale and satisfaction

* Raised levels of commitment to company values and objectives or to a specific project

* Increased motivation and feeling of belonging


* Increased attendance and participation levels for events / meetings / online platforms

* Co-created plans

* Employee feedback


* Involving employees in strategic decision-making


* Listening to employees and taking their suggestions on board

* Recognition

*Conducting employee surveys


* Any measurement measuring any one of more of the above items

The Most Egregious Practice

The most egregious practice in the of the Employee Engagement definition mess is the extent to which many of their authors treat their own definition as “the answer,” and then cite survey research about Employee Engagement which aligns with completely different definitions and methodologies.

This approach makes, inadvertently, naively or cynically, a claim that adopting the author’s approach will address the researcher’s question, when there may be no direct connection between the two. At best, that muddies the waters. At worst, that’s bait and switch.

Winning the war on Employee Engagement

If there is going to be a war on Employee Engagement the first step to victory would be to establish some linguistic integrity in this space.

When an author talks about “increasing discretionary effort” and calls it Employee Engagement, practitioners need to say, “NO, you are talking about increasing discretionary effort.”

When a respected consultant says the answer is to selectively involve employees in governance and strategic decisions and calls it Employee Engagement, we need to say “NO, you are talking about selectively involving employees in governance and strategic decision making.”

When a manager talks about organising a town hall meeting and calls it an Employee Engagement, one needs to say politely “No, this is better described as a town hall meeting because nearly everything these days is called Employee Engagement.

The Fruits of Victory

This is not to say these activities are without benefit, or that they won’t improve Employee Engagement by the standard of one or more definitions.

But one thing that could really improve employee engagement is a more robust vocabulary that would allow us to compare different approaches and their impact on improving specific attitudes, behaviours and bottom-line financials.

Doing so would give organisations more powerful choices in how to assess their needs, select appropriate, efficient and outcome-specific approaches, and execute them effectively.

It is much easier to compare the impact of democratic governance with free employee lunches with amped-up employer branding activities than it is to compare Employee Engagement with Employee Engagement with Employee Engagement.

It is time for a war on Employee Engagement. And that war, ultimately, will be won by changing the terms.


Writing to Lead/Transcending Self-Censorship

As an internal communicator, it is true that I at my happiest when I am writing.  But what’s less obvious to those who observe me is about when I am writing at my happiest. 

That is when I am pushing the boundaries of self-censorship. 

The fundamental question an internal communicator faces in front of the keyboard is “can I get this approved?”.  At 16:30 on a Friday afternoon, that is a legitimate question, but seeking an affirmative response invariably leads to a descent into deep self-censorship.

Avoidance of confrontation with Above also fuels self-censorship.  Such avoidance may seemingly contribute to enhanced job security, but at the price of diminished self respect, distinctiveness and organisational impact.

Self-censorship is necessary at times, particularly when relationships between communicators and their “line” on specific subjects have already been hammered out.  But we do our organizations no favors when we draft for safety over impact when there is any possibility to get a subject to consider greater boldness.

 At the same time, what we draft has to ring credibly from the mouths of those who speak those words or who approve their distribution on their behalf.

My own default position is clear. I start by asking myself: “What would I say if I were that person, in that situation, pursuing his or her own agenda and seeking maximum odds for success?”

I don’t get everything approved on that basis.

But I have never been yelled at, either for being too outrageous or too timid, in more than 20 years. 

There is some navigating to do with this stance.  It requires real knowledge of the involved content and where possible, empathy with the “speaker.” 

Specifically, it requires a clear delineation between “what I would say in their position” and “what I think they would say if they had the words and confidence to say it”.

It requires confidence– in case one is asked to explain or encourage the use of bolder-than-expected wording.

And, it requires perspective – to always recognize that the subject or speaker has the final say.

But challenging the seductive safety of excessive self-censorship is where the communicator can move from being a stenographer to being a leader.  

Moving leaders beyond the limits of their rhetorical skills, and challenging one’s own estimation of their courage, can move them and their organizations forward.  DoIng so repeatedly and successfully helps one move into a role as a leader oneself. 

Draft with conviction. Accept correction with grace. Savor success, and seek opportunities to help your leaders to lead—and to lead through your words.



#IABC14 Putting the Future First


TORONTO-The International Association of Business Communicators, with whom I have had a stormy but enriching  13-year relationship as a member, chapter board member, regional board member, critic and advocate, is having its annual World Conference here in Canada’s biggest city this week.

Unlike more sectarian gatherings, like the European Association of Communication Directors’ in-house-pros event in Brussels, or the conferences of national PR and Journalists associations, the IABC’s event is the only one which fully embraces communication practitioners across geographies, practice areas and business models.

One criticism of previous gatherings was that they were “all about IABC” – focusing on showcasing member-experts, and celebrating the value of IABC as an institution.

This year, there is a subtle but very important shift—a change in tone towards bringing in new and more diverse ideas and promoting a more outward focus on advancing the skills and confidence of the communication profession.

The shift is particularly subtle against the backdrop of Toronto, one of the worlds most magically eclectic cities.

But the choice of a fiery futurist, Mike Walsh, as the kickoff keynote of the event sent an unambiguous message: IABC is putting the future first.

More to come from #IABC14 in Toronto.


Cover Story: IABC’s Communication World

Am delighted and excited to announce the publication of my article, “Focus Your Engagement Where it Matters Most,” as the cover story of IABC‘s revamped Communication World magazine.

It is my first-ever full article for CW. Its publication on the eve of IABC’s World Conference in Toronto next week marks a nice opportunity to sharpen the conversation about “employee engagement”, its relationship with internal communication, and the extent to which strategic internal communication can make the energy and expenditure dedicated to “employee engagement” more effective.

The article can be found here: http://bit.ly/cwcoverstory

Many thanks to IABC’s Natasha Nicholson, and also to my sources Dan Gray, Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard, Jim Shaffer, Muriel Pineau, Darryl Mead, Gunther Mittmann-Gano, Joy Niemerg and Kellie Cummings for their input.


Enabling Employee Advocacy: Another View

Over the years, I have published a number of pieces about the emerging role of employees as an external communication channel, and of how internal and external communication are converging.

My Canadian friend and occasional debating partner Judy Gombita takes another view.

In a substantial, well-written post in PR Conversations, Judy highlights a number of legitimate concerns about actively mobilising employees to advocate a company and its products on their own social accounts and in their own communities.

A good point, but…

Judy makes a good point—employee advocacy programmes which are clearly contrived or coerced can be damaging to company relationships  with employees and customers alike.

But there is one massive thing she misses out:  that much employee advocacy is employee-initiated, either as an outcome of natural interactions between an employee and people in their own communities, or a result of an employee’s desire to help the organisation on his or her own time.

Enabling Natural Interactions

Like it or not, employees represent the public face of any organisation, even those with rock-star CEOs or KGB-style message management. They are continually asked about their work, and about their companies’ products, services, cultures and corporate behaviour.

Ensuring that employees are well-prepared for those conversations is hardly contrived or coerced.  Making sure that employees know the necessary facts and the boundaries of organisational messaging is conscientious, and indeed, compassionate.

It is conscientious because, given that hundreds of conversations between employees and the public occur daily, making sure employees understand key company messages can minimise unintentional and costly reputational errors.

It is compassionate because, for those employees who want to “do the right thing”, giving them a working definition of “the right thing” can be a bit useful.

Unleashing Employee Goodwill

In some cases, employee advocacy is employee generated—and actively seeks corporate support.  This is hardly far-fetched:  in the mobile industry, where I currently work, companies are heavily branded and are locked in fierce competition in each country.  Team and company spirit can be very high, and it is not unknown for employees to show their pride and champion their brand in their communities.  Enlightened self-interest is a main driver:  employees are not only proud of their brand identities, but know the positive difference even a small shift in market share can make.

Enabling, not Enforcing

External employee advocacy, when employee-initiated, can be genuine, powerful, mutually enriching and commercially valuable.  It is also an increasingly important element of the corporate communication picture.  While it may be unwise to try to stimulate or incentivise it artificially, it is even more unwise to discourage what is likely to happen anyways, starve it of the information and message guidance it requires, or deprive it of needed organisational support when it is asked for. Employee advocacy should not be enforced, but it should definitely be enabled.